Two years later, a couple of mines were established in the town. And by 1863, a total of five different operations were engaged in hauling out the buried coal. Eventually, in 1866 a man named Alexander Rae founded Centralia – a settlement that looked set to boom thanks to its valuable natural resources.
But just two years later, tragedy struck. Rae was apparently murdered, and many laid the blame on the Molly Maguires – a clandestine group that had been brought to the U.S. by Irish workers. Some people believed, however, that the Maguires had been framed by local employers who feared the unionization of employees.
Although three people were executed for the crime, violence continued to plague Centralia. And in 1869, a local priest was allegedly attacked by the Molly Maguires. According to folklore, he consequently exacted his vengeance by placing a curse on the land, claiming that one day only the town’s church would remain standing.